The restructuring process and wage negotiations are separate processes. Both these processes are necessary in the context of the serious challenges currently facing South African Airways (SAA). Our objective is to secure the future of our national airline to ensure a bright future for our company’s employees.
The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA), South African Airways Cabin Crew Association (SACCA) claimed that they had not been consulted about the restructuring process. This is not correct. It is SAA management’s full intention to respect and engage in a full consultative process. We recognise that this is our duty as a responsible employer.
In terms of the Labour Relations Act (LRA), a Section 189 consultation process must commence with the issuing of a written notice.
On 11 November, SAA issued a written notice to the unions in line with the LRA. This was done after SAA scheduled a meeting with the unions on the same day. The recognised unions did not to attend. Our representative for employee relations called each of the recognised unions to inform them that the company has issued a Section 189 notice.
It is important to mention that yesterday SAA lodged an application at the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) to appoint a senior commissioner who will facilitate the consultations.
By way of background, there were nine meetings on wage negotiations since February. In the latter part of the negotiations, SAA leadership made presentations to the unions regarding the liquidity status, financial performance and progress on the Long-term Turnaround Strategy (LTTS).
We have clearly indicated SAA’s difficult financial situation, even though we have made progress with the implementation of the Long-term Turnaround Strategy.
It is our hope that our unions will grasp the full extent of the situation and engage with us in finding a constructive way going forward.
SAA has created an enabling environment of engagement with all its internal stakeholders, especially labour unions. We understand that this is a difficult time for all employees.
SAA’s primary goal is to transform into a financially sustainable airline, with a renewed focus on driving customer centricity, commercialising the airline, route network profitability, strengthening commercial and aviation skills and a series of strategic initiatives that will refocus the organisation in driving a profit and loss ethos with a strong focus on cost management revenue and cost.
We promise the following:
- Consult with the Employees who are potentially affected;
- Consult in good faith;
- Treat all Employees with dignity and respect;
- Comply with legislation;
- Comply with the Company’s policies, ethics and values;
- Communicate with all Employees regularly;
- Consult and communicate openly and transparently; and
- What we expect from our Employees is active engagement and participation
THREAT OF INDUSTRIAL ACTION
We need to address the sustained loss-making position that has persisted over the past years. That is why we are leading a restructuring process that seeks to give this airline the future it deserves and establishing SAA once again as “Africa’s leading world-class airline.”
We note with concern any threat by the unions to consider initiating industrial action. Let me state the reality clearly; any interruption to our operation, endangers the future of our airline; our ability to deliver our strategy and threatens every job at SAA and related industries.
We are confident that by working together we can meet the objectives of the strategy. Now is the time for us to unite however difficult the decisions are for us as we move forward. Our shared responsibility is great and we can secure a bright future, not only for SAA but also for the country.